Sammy Onyango, Deloitte’s outgoing chief executive, says employees stay long hours in the office just to earn overtime.
‘‘To encourage employees to come and work, Deloitte did away with logging in. Let people come in whatever time they are coming in and leave whatever time they are leaving,’’ he says. Interestingly, after introducing flexi-time at Deloitte, productivity increased.
‘‘The flexi-time also had another ripple effect. It made us retain a number of women professionals. I used to see very bright women working hard but when they got married they would come and ask for flexible hours and if there was nothing within the firm, they would resign,’’ he adds. Regular 9-to-5 roles are gradually being edged out by flexi-hours and remote working positions in this era of digital nomads, and it looks like the future will offer more opportunities that let you work when and where you want.
Mr Onyango remembers one female employee who had complicated pregnancies.
‘‘The doctor had indicated that it was the heavy working environment that was causing the miscarriages,’’ he says.
‘‘I told her ‘you don’t have to come to the office, work from your house or in an environment where you are much more comfortable. Pregnant mothers can come in by 10am and leave at 2pm or they don’t have to come to the office.’’
A majority of Kenyans nowadays prefer tele-commuting or seek out flexible schedules.
“Remote working has been great for us so far,” says Josiane Faubert, the founder of PICHAstock, a digital marketplace for stock images of Africa.
Communication is key when you have employees working away from the office, particularly if time-zones are different.
She adds, “Depending on the employee’s role, we have weekly calls to check in as well as weekly and monthly reporting sessions.”
This relaxed work-life is especially common with millennials who continue to leave steady, well-paying traditional jobs to set up their own online-based businesses that are conducive for a nomadic lifestyle.
“I used to work a 9 to 5 office job in Bangkok but quickly figured that spending my day in the office was not for me at all,” says Chris Schalk, who worked as head of digital content marketing at HotelQuickly.
His employer eventually allowed him to work from wherever he wanted, shuttling between Bangkok and Taipei with the occasional side trip to Malaysia and Kenya.
“Since I specialise in digital marketing, all my work is done online and I really just need a stable Internet connection to do my job.”
Employees in 9-to-5 jobs are sometimes overworked, stressed and struggle to create a healthy work-life balance.
For Chris, however, being able to work remotely seems to be a solution. “I am very transparent with my clients and try to manage their expectations as much as possible. For instance, now that I am in India and frequently on the move, I tell them that work will go on but it might take a day or two before I get back to them. As long as I get the job done and deliver everything on time, they are fine with it. While travelling, I usually take it very slow: half a day sightseeing, half a day working. It takes some discipline, but the rewards are worth it.”
Sabrina Dorman, CEO at Zumi, however says that while they started out being open to flexible schedules, they have settled into a 9-to-5 system.
“Initially, the benefit of remote working was for the flexibility it allowed both the business and the consultants we worked with. We were getting to know them and they were getting to know us. Finding the right staff is a bit like dating. Once we recognised top performers, we brought them fully into the team and they no longer worked remotely,” she says.